The Mischief of Sin
by Thomas Watson, 1671
The Last and Great
"I will wait until my change comes." Job 14:14
If all that has been previously said will not stop men in
their sins, I shall add little more. Only let me make this one warning to
them—that they would remember their mortality and think seriously how soon
death may come—and how terrible it will be to die in their sins! John 8:21.
For this purpose, let them hearken to this death-watch in the text, "I will
wait until my change comes."
This book of Job treats much of death and mortality. Job
looked upon himself as a man who was not long for this world. Job 17:1, "I
am near death. The grave is ready to receive me!" And he loved to be walking
often among the tombs—and so to familiarize himself with death. "I will wait
until my change comes."
"Until my change comes"—that is, until death
In the text there is:
Job's resolution, "I will wait."
The length of time he will wait, "until my change
From which words flow three propositions:
1. Death is a change.
2. This change will come.
3. It is a great part of Christian prudence, to wait
until this change comes.
Doctrine 1. Death is a change.
There is a threefold change:
A change before death.
A change at death.
A change after death.
1. There is a change BEFORE death. Death being
ready to approach—changes a man's OPINION.
When a person comes to die, he has another opinion of things, than he had
before. He now sees with other eyes!
He now has another opinion of the WORLD
than he had. He sees what a vain thing it is. He could never before, see its
nothingness, the devil having cast a mist before his eyes. He once
doted upon the world. Now, all its jewels are pulled off—and he sees it in
its night dress. He sees how the world's paint falls off—and how unable it
is to give one drop of true comfort at the hour of death!
Death approaching changes a man's opinion about SIN.
Before, he looked upon sin, as merely a matter of merriment. He thought
swearing an oath, drinking to excess—and wasting his precious time in
vanity—was but a light thing. He said of sin, as Lot did of Zoar, "Is it
not a little one?" Genesis 19:20. But when he sees death's grim face
appear—he now has other apprehensions of sin than he had before. The
wine that showed its color in the glass and smiled at him—now bites like a
serpent! Proverbs 23:32. Those sins which before were thought to be light
as feathers—are now like a ton of lead ready to sink him.
King Belshazzar was carousing and drinking wine in the
cups taken from the Temple of God in Jerusalem; but when there came forth
"fingers of a man's hand—and wrote upon the wall—then the King's "face
turned pale with fear! Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked
together and his legs gave way beneath him!" Daniel 5:6. So, after sinful
pleasure enjoyed, when death begins to show itself and put forth its
fingers—and a man sees a dreadful handwriting in his conscience—and then oh,
how is his opinion about sin changed! How his thoughts trouble him! Now what
would he give to have his sins pardoned? He never saw the face of sin
as ugly as in the looking-glass of death!
When death comes near a man, it changes his opinion about
HOLINESS. He once thought it a shame to be seen with a Bible
in his hand. Holiness before was the object of his scorn and hatred. He
called pious discourses, "mere cant;" repentance, "whining;" fervent
praying, "babbling." He baptized true zeal with the name of fanaticism. But
when death begins to approach, it changes his judgment. He now sees how
mistaken he was—and that without holiness he can never see God, Hebrews
12:14. Now his eyes begin to be opened and he subscribes to that maxim, Job
28:28, "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom!" He now sees the best way to be
safe is to be sincerely pious. Oh, now what would he give for
a grain of that holiness, which before he despised! How glad he would
be to "die the death of the righteous," though he hated to
live their life!
Thus, there is a change made not long before
death. The sinner now sees himself in a snare and labyrinth! Now the
minister must be sent for in all haste, though oftentimes he comes too late!
2. There is a change AT death. This is a
change in the BODY. Job 14:20,
"You always overpower them, and then they pass from the scene. You disfigure
them in death and send them away." The most lovely complexion is greatly
changed, when once the pale horse of death rides over it! The eyes
are hollow. The cheeks are ashen. The jaws are sunken.
That beautiful face which once allured—now frightens! Psalm 39:11,
"You make his beauty consume away like a moth." Death is a moth which
consumes a beauty of the finest spinning. Hence, the body being so
discolored by death—and turned into a vile carcass—the patriarchs desired to
have their dead buried out of their sight, Genesis 23:4. Death so changes
the body and puts it into such a frightful dress—that none fall in love
with it but the worms!
3. There is a change AFTER death. This change
is chiefly in regard to the SOUL.
To the godly—it is a blessed change.
To the wicked—it is a cursed change.
The GODLY, after death, have a blessed change. They have
a full acquittal from their sins and are put into an actual possession of
their blissful inheritance. Faith gives them a propriety in glory—and
death gives them a possession of glory. Oh, blessed change, from a
desert—to a paradise; from a house of mourning—to a banquet house; from a
bloody battle—to a victorious crown! "Glorified believers shall change their
place—but not their company," said Preston. They shall have
transforming sights of God. 1 John 3:2, "When He shall appear—we shall be
As the souls of the godly shall have a blessed change
after death, so shall their bodies at the resurrection, John 6:40 and 1
Thessalonians 4:19. Though the grave is their long home, it is not
their last home. Mother earth shall be in travail—and bring
forth the bodies of the saints—and they shall shine as the sun in its
meridian splendor! "He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours—and change
them into glorious bodies like His own!" Philippians 3:21.
Death will make a cursed change to the WICKED. They must
go out of the bed of pleasure, and leave all their mirth and music.
Revelation 18:21, "Never again will the sound of music be heard there!" The
wicked must change from joy—to misery; from a temporary paradise—to an
eternal prison! "I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:19.
Doctrine 2. This change WILL come!
Death can no more be stopped in its race—than the sun.
Death's scythe cuts asunder, even the royal scepter. God's messenger
of death finds out every man. Ecclesiastes 8:8, "There is no
discharge in that war." Among men, if one is summoned to the war—he may find
some excuse. He may plead unfitness or he may substitute another in his
place. But in this war with death—there is no getting off. "There is
no discharge in that war." As death sends its challenge to all, so it is
sure to conquer. When death, like God's sergeant-at-arms, arrests men, there
is no bribing this sergeant or making resistance.
Death will not be bribed. It was a saying
of Beauford, a wicked bishop in King Henry the Sixth's time, "Why should I
die, being so rich? Will not death be hired? Will money do nothing?" Ezekiel
7:19, "Their silver and gold will be unable to save them, in the day of the
Death cannot be resisted. Take a man in his
best estate. Let him be dignified with honor like Solomon, armed with
strength like Sampson. Were his flesh as hard as bronze—yet God's
bullet of death would shoot through him! How easily can God look
us into our grave! Men may set up their banners—but God always sets
up the trophies!
That there must be a change, is evident. The body, being
but an earthly tabernacle, 2 Peter 1:14, the cords of it will
soon be loosed. Besides, there is a decree of death passed upon all people,
"Man is destined to die once—and after that to face judgment!" Hebrews 9:27.
And how soon this change will come—we do not know. Death may be
within a few days march of us—and when it comes with its letter of
summons—we must surrender!
Use 1. Exhortation
Branch 1. Let us all exercise ourselves with THOUGHTS of
this great change. Let us not be of that Emperor's mind—who
judged it cowardly to think of death. Job 17:14, "I have said to
corruption—you are my father; and to the worm—you are my mother."
Job, by often meditating on death, was as well acquainted with it, as he was
with his father and mother. By often handling this serpent—it will be
less frightful. The serious contemplation on this great change, death—would
produce these four excellent effects.
1. It would HUMBLE us. Why should we set up
banners and trophies of pride—when we are but dust and rottenness! The
thoughts of the grave would bury our pride.
2. The thoughts of a sudden change would be an antidote
against SIN. Shall we go on in sin—when God may say this night,
"Give an account of your stewardship!" The way to give sin a mortal wound—is
to set up a death's-head on our table—which will make us think of our
face after we die!
In particular, the thoughts of our change would keep us
from sinful compliance. Some latitudinarians can cut their religion
according to the fashion of the times. They can be Protestant or Papist.
They can sail with any wind that blows to their advantage. But that man will
not be for every change—who thinks seriously of his last change.
3. The thoughts of this change would cure our inordinate
love of the WORLD. A change will come shortly—and then what will
this fleeting world be to us? All our money will serve only to buy us a
burial sheet! Saladine, the Turkish Emperor, lying at the point of death,
commanded that a white sheet should be carried before him to his grave on
the point of a spear, with this proclamation, "These are the rich spoils
which Saladine the Emperor carries away with him—of all his triumphs and
victories obtained—of all his realms possessed. Nothing is left him but this
sheet!" After a great feast comes the basket for leftover food. Shortly,
death, like such a basket, will take away all our earthly comforts. "But God
said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded
from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This
is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not
rich toward God." Luke 12:20-21.
4. The serious thoughts of our last and great change,
would make us spend our TIME better. How diligent men would be in
Scripture reading, how fervent in prayer, how watchful over our hearts, how
useful to our relations! We should live every day as if it were our dying
day. He who knows how short his time is in his farm, will make the best
advantage of it. He who remembers the shortness of his time here on
earth—and how soon a change may come—will improve all the seasons of grace
for his soul that he may give a good account of his stewardship.
Branch 2. Let us PREPARE for this change. All
the changes we meet with in the world, are but to fit us for our last
change. Men unprepared, being summoned by the king of terrors before
God's tribunal, go as the prisoner to the bar to receive their fatal doom!
The thoughts of this, should be enough to put them into a frenzy. Would it
not be sad for a man to have his house on fire—and the fire so fierce that
he has no time to get out his goods? Such is the case of many at death. A
fever has set their house of clay on fire—and they are snatched away
so suddenly that they have no time to make provision for their souls!
Question. What shall we do to be fitted for our great
and last change?
Answer 1. Let us labor to get into Christ. It
is dreadful when death finds any outside of Christ. As if the avenger of
blood had overtaken the manslayer before he had gotten to the city of
refuge. You who are in Christ, are as the dove in the rock. Romans
8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Christ has
fully atoned for the sin of believers. Christ's blood turns a deathbed into
a bed of roses!
The best way to be fitted for dying, is being married
to Christ. It does not matter if death unties the knot between the
body and the soul—as long as faith has tied the knot between
Christ and the soul. The Prince of Peace secures against the
king of terrors.
Answer 2. If we would be fitted for our last
change—let us labor for a spiritual change. Before our bodies are
changed, let us labor to have our hearts changed. Oh, let us get the
holy anointing, 1 John 2:27. Grace is as needful for the soul—as oil is for
the lamp, and as breath for the body. John 3:7, "You must be born again." He
who is born but once—shall die twice. Grace makes an admirable change. To be
changed from sin to holiness—is as if iron were changed into gold, or dust
changed into diamonds. Now, the soul is all glorious within. Oh, labor for
this gracious change! At death, a good face may change for the
worse—but a good heart changes for the better.
Doctrine 3. It is a high point of Christian prudence, to
wait until our change comes. "I will wait." Waiting implies two
EXPECTATION. "I will wait for my change"—that is,
I will look for it. A gracious soul is ever expecting to hear news of his
going home to be with Christ. Death does not come to a child of God
unawares—but it come as Jonathan's arrow did to David, who went into the
field and expected where the arrow would be shot, 1 Samuel 20:24. A godly
man looks every hour for the arrow of death to be shot at him.
DILIGENCE. "I will wait until my change comes"—that is, I
will be setting my soul in order for death. We must not wait and sit
still—but wait and work. He who waits for his master's coming
will be careful that everything is in good decorum. Matthew 24:46, "Blessed
is that servant whom his Lord when he comes, shall find so doing." Be often
calling yourselves to account; every night review what you have been doing
all the day. This is the right waiting for our final change—when we put our
souls in a ready posture for death and judgment.
Use 2. Reproof
Branch 1. This reproves such as are so far
from waiting for their change, that they cannot endure to think
of their change. They are no more willing to think of death—than a man
drowned in debt is to think of going to prison. Amos 6:3, "You who put far
away the evil day." He hopes for long life. The bud of youth hopes to
come to the flower of manhood—and the flower of manhood hopes to come to old
age—and old age hopes to renew its strength as the eagle. Psalm 49:11,
"Their inward thought, is that their houses shall continue forever." They
would rather be building fine houses—than providing their tombstone. The
mirthful youth does not like the noise of the death-bell—and the powdered
hair forgets his final destiny.
Branch 2. It reproves such as wait—but not in
the right sense. They wait to fulfill their lusts. "The adulterer waits for
the twilight, for he says, No one will see me then." Job 24:15. The
unjust man waits for an opportunity to defraud. Is this to wait as Job did?
Where do men wait for their change? In a tavern, or at a theater? Alas,
their change comes before they are aware! The graves are ready for them—but
they are not ready for their graves!
Use 3. Exhortation
It exhorts Christians to wait for their change. As the
farmer waits until his seed sown springs up, as the merchant
waits for the coming home of his ship—so we should wait until death comes to
ship us over to the eternal world.
1. Let us wait with watchfulness. Mark 13:33,
"Watch and pray." Let us watch our hearts—that they neither decoy us into
sin, nor charm us asleep in carnal security.
2. Let us wait with patience. "I will wait
until my change comes." That is, "I will be patient until my change
The sufferings the godly endure in this life—and
the joys they will have after death—may put them upon desiring this
blissful change. But though they should covet to die—yet they must be
content to live. Wait with patience until the appointed time has
come. The Father knows when the best season is, to bring his child home.
Christian, do not be desirous to be in heaven, before your time. Wait but
awhile—and you shall have what you have prayed and wept for. It is but
awhile—and God will take the cross off your shoulders and set a
crown upon your head!